Emotional Emails… Geez!!

Communication Organizational leadership Respect

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Key Point: I would like to see at least a 50 percent reduction in emails in our company! Why? Many are wasteful. When I see long strings of emails, I want to go, “aaugh,” like Charlie Brown from in the old Peanuts comic strip. (Millennials, click the link). Emails are best as short, punchy statements that confirm a dialogue or instruction. They’re not to be the medium for conversation. However, as much as I’d like email to mostly go away, the following are some guidelines I want to comment on. 

Andrew Brodsky is a Ph.D. candidate in Organizational Behavior at Harvard Business School. He notes in a recent HBR blog that using email is simply unavoidable and stresses that we can balance the need to communicate while avoiding the potential pitfalls of using emotion in email. He claims the following as five concrete, research-based recommendations:

“Brodsky: Understand what drives how emails are interpreted. It is clear that people often misinterpret emotion in email, but what drives the direction of the misinterpretation? For one, people infuse their emotional expectations into how they read messages, regardless of the sender’s actual intent. Consider the email “Good job on the current draft, but I think we can continue to improve it.” Coming from a peer, this email will seem very collaborative; coming from a supervisor, it may seem critical.”

Rubis: Why use email at all if you’re concerned about emotional misinterpretation? Please call or have a video exchange and avoid the emotional confusion. Then send an email after to confirm commitments made. (Please don’t tell me you can’t get a hold of each other. That’s usually bunk and a phony excuse)!

“Brodsky: Mimic behaviors. What is the best way to convey emotions via email? Emoticons? Word choice? Exclamation points? There is no single correct answer; the proper cues will vary based on the context. For instance, you likely wouldn’t want to send a smiley face emoticon to a client organization that is known for having a very formal culture. Alternatively, you wouldn’t want to send an overly formal email to a very close colleague.”

Rubis: Ok, the concept of mimicking behavior as a way of demonstrating empathy is great. I have another idea. How about talking to each other instead of spending a bunch of time trying to select the right emoji? Geez?

“Brodsky: State your emotions. While mimicking behaviors can be effective, it is still a rather subtle strategy that leaves the potential for emotional ambiguity. The simplest solution to avoid any confusion is to just explicitly state the emotion that you want to relay in your email.”

Rubis: I like the idea of stating your emotion. Then what? How about having a conversation? Use that fancy smart phone and use FaceTime or Skype. Or would you prefer to hide behind the email? 

“Brodsky: Consider making some strategic typos. The answer is to do something that makes it seem like you are not actually “crafting” your message. Counter to most business advice, in situations where authenticity is very important, it may be worthwhile to consider making a couple of typos. What makes errors so believable is that they make you seem less competent: Why would someone ever make a typo if they were trying to impress me?”

Rubis: Create typos? Are you friggin’ kidding me? That’s authentic? Please ask Harvard to give you a rebate on your tuition. When I call you, should I use a fake stutter to make myself more vulnerable? Geez! 

“Brodsky: Disclose personal information. One of the benefits of email is that it tends to result in more straightforward and productive work communication, avoiding the potentially unproductive schmoozing that tends to occur in face-to-face conversations. However, disclosing personal information while making small talk actually helps lubricate social interactions by building familiarity and trust. Studies that have examined email negotiations show that simply having people engage in a brief “getting to know each other” interaction prior to negotiating can significantly improve negotiation outcomes. So if your interactions are longer-term, limit misinterpretations and increase the believability of explicit emotional displays by letting a fuller version of yourself show through.”

Rubis: “Avoid potentially unproductive schmoozing.” Huh? Holy #%+!!!  Sorry to break it to you Harvard folks, but face-to-face schmoozing involves making a personal emotional connection. And as much as a Harvard MBA might see that as unproductive, it is an effective, personal, emotional connection that makes business productive. As digital and mobile as we continue to become, that will ALWAYS be the case. Thank goodness!!

Character Moves: 

  1. Commit to making email way more effective by cutting it by 50 percent and refuse to use it for a problem solving method or a vehicle to manage emotional connections. When you see a string that involves an attempt at a problem solving conversation… Stop,call/video/meet face-to-face instead.
  1. Increase personal conversations by 50 percent. Make stronger personal emotional connections. Invest in each other rather than using a tool that was never meant for emotional exchange and relationship building! Never fake a typo or do anything inauthentic. Talk… Listen… With your mouth and ears and eyes, not with your keyboard.

 Connecting in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: This is hilarious, because as a millennial, I understand the inconvenience of emails, but I certainly appreciate and utilize the power of text… 90 percent of my relationships are dealt with via text (I probably send a few thousand a month). There’s also a movement I like that is something along the lines of sarcastically saying, “Thanks for holding the meeting that could have just been an email.” Bottom line: If it’s not useful, I don’t want to go. While calling or video chat is nice at times, it still requires me to pause Spotify. That can be as annoying as a meaningless email chain, or lengthy, boring meeting… And all millennials can probably agree, we’ve learned to accurately read tone, emojis, and emotion in text. Don’t believe me? Get a “k” or “fine” response, and see if you can’t read straight through that. I appreciate and crack up at the “baahhh, get off my lawn!!!” reaction from those who desire more face-to-face connection while their phone blows up with texts, but texting isn’t going anywhere. Face-to-face time is obviously hugely important, and wasteful emails are awful, so let’s meet in the middle… There’s one common denominator: Be straightforward and don’t waste people’s time or keep them guessing. If you send an email, send one. And sure, if you can say something face-to-face, then do it. Do it so we can all get back to the job at hand, and also keep listening to our favorite podcasts.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Bright Spots and Duds

Accountability Contribution Teamwork

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Key Point: If we closely look at people we work with, some colleagues show bright spots; they work under similar circumstances, yet achieve substantially more than others. It almost seems too easy. Yet when we thoughtfully and carefully study “why?”, answers are there for us to share and scale with others. Shining a light on and learning from “bright spots” is one cool path to a substantial increase in productivity and performance within the organization.

Chip Heath, NYT best selling author, Stanford professor, and organization consultant, presented at a conference I was at this past week. He noted that by focusing on “bright spots,” a large fast food chain was able to significantly increase the speed of customer order and fulfillment by recognizing that “bright spot” employees did something most others didn’t. They always repeated customer orders into their head sets, alerting the kitchen in advance of the precise meal items being placed in the system. By taking that “bright spot” differentiator and applying it to ALL order takers, business has dramatically increased. Over time, that “bright spot” order technique became the standard operating process for all and resulted in a competitive advantage for the company.

The reputation and brand of the organization you and I work in, is also most often defined by the lowest behaviorally performing person; people we might refer to as “duds.” We can have everyone representing our brand in the best possible way and yet one abusive, cynical person can knock over the “rice bowl.” These people are poisonous to a culture, although often still smart enough to get results. Yet, they often get numbers, by running over teammates, alienating customers, and creating a toxic work environment. And that means, the “duds” have to go. 

Character Moves:

  1. Find the “bright spots” and apply what they’re so successfully doing to differentiate themselves. Make that adaptation to any applicable part of the company. Sometimes it’s just that simple.
  1. At the same time, find the “duds,” who after performance coaching just “don’t get it” or “want to get It.” Unceremoniously and respectfully FIRE them. Don’t wait. The most respectful thing to do is to call out a “dud” and help that person find something else they are more suited to do. Most leaders know this and yet often need a kick in the pants to do something about it.  
  1. Driving to high level of cultural performance is like being on a teeter-totter. It’s a balance between finding/replicating “bright spots,” while terminating/minimizing “duds.” You and I have to do both. Leadership involves having that courage. Anyone can avoid a tough conversation, leaders don’t.

Bright spots in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Just do a little research on the customer service difference between the highly successful Netflix, and the worst rated Comcast cable company… In the last two days, I’ve heard of Netflix customer service awarding an armed service member five years of free subscription after they were deployed during a price increase, and a lovely discussion between a Netflix customer service rep and a normal customer during a movie request. During the same period of time, an angry Comcast customer is probably still on hold. No wonder the “bright spot” is dominating television as we know it.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Straight Talk From Kids: Just Breathe

Authenticity Respect Well-being

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Key Point: Kids are such great teachers. We could all benefit from hanging out and really being present with them more often. After spending a few days visiting with our 8-year-old grandson, it reinforced the beauty of an easy smile, the joy of learning, the tenderness of a hug and sweetness of unabashed silliness (mine and his). So my gift to you is to take 3:41 to watch the embedded video. It aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s Super Soul Sunday program, April 12, after Oprah’s interview with the mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn

Character Moves: 

  1. Please watch the video. Embrace the kindergarten kids’ insights and self-awareness. 
  2. Hang out and be present with some little kids. They like straight talk. Ask them questions with authenticity and then just listen. 
  3. Let your “brain jar” settle and… “Just breathe.”

Big little people in the Triangle, 

Lorne

One Millennial View: This video was a little bit (ok, a lot) more serious than I expected it to be. But considering children less than 10 years old are explaining the complexity of brain function and behavioral patterns, it’s refreshing to know that this upcoming generation is going to be just fine. When I was that age, I think my main expertise were Star Wars action figures, cartoons on Nickelodeon and recess.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Hiding in the ‘We’eds!

Accountability Contribution Teamwork

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Key Point: There must be an “I” in team. I am totally committed to effective, high performance teamwork as the only way to win and sustain success in any organization. However, I have become somewhat concerned that the vitality and urgency of individual contribution can get lost when we focus exclusively on “we.” A team can only be great when individuals are fiercely self-accountable about their personal contribution. It is important that the “I” in team does not skid into narcissism. This demands that our individual contributions include results that positively impact the team for the greater good.

People are attracted to self-accountable people because they lead and take responsibility for their own performance first. The “I’s” in team set the pace, step up, and avoid trying to fix the “we” in advance of fixing themselves first. My antennae go up when I hear “we” in the same dysfunctional way as when the infamous “they” is thrown about. The phrase, “I wish we could/should…” is only marginally better than, “I wish they could/should… ” I’ve come to label this thinking and behavior as “hiding in the ‘we’eds.’”

I’m not a fan of people who say, “I did this,” “I did that.” But I’m a huge fan of people who quietly “do.” These types of folks just fire up in the morning and get it done. And when it’s time for recognition they gladly share it with the “we.” Here’s what I’ve come to appreciate about the best “I’s” in teams; these people keep one eye (“I”) on the higher purpose, while working autonomously, loving what they do, and really connecting with others. Coincidentally, the research denotes that these four behaviors are the key ingredients of personal happiness.

Character Moves:

  1. Help define your team by what YOU personally do. Look in the mirror first. Set the bar. Be the example. Give and do not expect anything in return. Do it because it will bring genuine happiness to you and the “we” you care about. 
  1. Let go of fear, keep your compass aimed at the greater good, and just friggin’ “bring it.” Be the “I” that your teammates just love to be around. Occasionally you will run into people that will be scarcity folks. They will try and diminish you. Sometimes, it will hurt. Breathe deep and just keep giving it. Things will work out in the long run. How could they not? 

“I” Teamwork in the Triangle,

 Lorne

One Millennial View: I really appreciate the phrase, “act like you’ve been there before.” You know, the idea that when you personally achieve something positive, you don’t NEED to make a spectacle of it. Certainly no, “hey, I did that. It was me.” Thanks to the roots you’ve already planted, it’s expected of you. Being a clutch teammate isn’t a surprise, and you have the confidence to know that too.  Obnoxious individual excitement would seem forced, and you sure don’t need a parade. This is often attributed to sports, but it can really apply to any facet of life. Whether it’s a customer or clerk saying “wow, thanks” for helping an old woman at the grocery store, or the next time you play a key role helping your team to that next big accomplishment at work, you can use that positive energy to fuel the next well intentioned step. After all, you’ve been there before, right?

 – Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Ride With People in the ‘KNOW’ Not the ‘NO’

Abundance Growth mindset Well-being

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Key Point: Do not hang around people who constantly talk in self-defeating and negative ways. All it does is reinforce that you “can’t,” “won’t,” “shouldn’t,” etc. There is such a mindset difference between people committed to YES versus NO. You hear these negative folks start most of their conversations thinking and describing situations in the “NO…” And most often, they’re not in the “KNOW.”

I really appreciated the article in Forbes referencing the great bull rider and rodeo coach Gary Leffew

“Some guys made heroes out of [bulls]. In their mind they become impossible to ride… I tell my students not to hang around with people who make a bull sound impossible, tell you all the reasons why you can’t ride him.” Leffew advises, ‘Walk over to a winner and you ask him about the same bull and he goes, ‘Oh man you got him, that’s one I wanted.’” According to Leffew, 95 percent of people who opt to ride bulls fail at it chiefly because they cannot handle the mental aspect of bull riding.”

I remember being six-years-old and crawling along the ditch to avoid being noticed by our neighbor’s bull. My buddy, who actually was part of the family that owned that bull and I created stories about how fierce this bull was and how if he saw us , he would likely run over and gore us just to get his daily jollies. Of course we were just kids. Still, as noted by Leffew, as adults we often continue with stories in our head that make winning unlikely and even impossible. 

“The goal is to dance with [the bull]. When you are dancing, you become one with the person you are with.” Same with bull riding. As Leffew told Caitlin Ryan for the blog The Last Word, ‘You’re so mentally in tune with [the bull] you go there together… The rankest bulls I ever rode… Were always the easiest rides.’

Meditation is core to Leffew’s teaching. Students learn to meditate so they can prepare themselves mentally along with preparing themselves physically through their technique. His school has groomed more than a dozen World Champions. ‘If you’re willing to suffer through the temporary setbacks, there’s nothing you can’t achieve,’ says Leffew.”

Character Moves:

  1. Beware of and honestly acknowledge how deep your negative self-talk is. You might try and trick yourself by “shouting out or over” what’s being whispered in your mind. For example, when you tell yourself, “Can’t,” “won’t “, “you suck,” “you will strike out.” Noticing this very deep negative self-talk is half the battle. Now do something to change it!!!! 
  2. Meditate and imagine. If you’re like me, I’m thinking about this more than doing it. I’m committed to become much, much better at mindfulness. Regardless where you are in your career/life… Don’t wait any longer. Learn how to prepare mentally through practiced meditation and imagining/using imagery… All the senses. (Bet you’re nodding yes but your mind is saying, “You don’t have time.”)  
  3. Look for your personal triggers that indicate you’re likely in an unhelpful mental state… For example, giving someone a digit in traffic, lost in space while someone is talking to you, or rushing and making mistakes in a frantic moment, etc. You might be there because of some “bull’s reputation” driving you into “NO” and “Can’t.” Dance with that bull!!! 

Knowing the bull in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I wanted to start a podcast at my company with a co-worker, where we’d candidly discuss the the entertainment news, and our opinions as reporters/producers. It was going to be light hearted, and really fired us up because it would be a fun, new adventure. After a dry run, it was immediately scrapped. We got a “no,” and I’m not so sure anyone even listened. They were worried about content, budget, corporate representation, and other issues that in all honesty weren’t even real problems. (We asked for no extra money, and would put in added time if needed). But, higher ups were so scared; it was easier to immediately say “no,” instead of advancing with positive discussion and execution. In my opinion, that podcast could even be monetarily successful at this point if we just gave it a try. It’s a darn shame when a “no” causes a potentially good ride to never leave the gate. I’d rather get bucked off in less than eight seconds than not hold tight and saddle up.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis